Sunday, April 6, 2014

Want to Win More Games? Make Practices Like Games

Do you want to win more games? I thought so.

Often, it is the missing link of realism and competitive nature between games and practices. For hitters, batting practice is easy. It's fun. It's relaxed. Hitters can have success without competing or focusing at a high level.

Games are hard. Why? Because that dude on the bump sixty feet away wants to shove that pearl down your throat. He wants to watch you walk back to the dugout, muttering, cursing and losing your competitive cool.

Let's let go of the excuse that, in games, pitchers are throwing off-speed pitches. Often, hitters are jammed by average fastballs for eight innings. In the ninth inning, a team may begin to compete at a higher level, and success can be found, hitting missiles all over the field. What changed?

Hitters spend so much of their time focusing on the physical aspect of the game. They work on their swing. They lift weights. They hit off the tee. They do mirror work. They hit curve balls off of a machine. They buy protein powders and nitric oxide boosters. They get Evoshields for every joint on the body.

Then with a runner at third and one out, a hitter swings and misses at three off-speed pitches....

Another hitter is given the bunt sign, shows bunt, pulls back and watches a fastball go by for strike one...

Yet another hitter, running at first base, forgets how many outs there are and gets doubled off on a routine fly ball, disallowing the runner at third to score...

We need to get better at practicing being in control of our emotions, and in control of our thoughts, while in competitive win or lose situations. Are you challenging your hitters with situations, consequences, rewarding them for positive things they can control?

Hitters that work on their swing in batting practice, day after day, lose an element of competition, of realism. Really, what they lose, is an opportunity to flush the negative. Overcome a bad round. Get tough. Grind out a quality at bat.

Coach pitch, game-situation BP is so much more productive than the pre-game, hit the ball here, hit the ball there variety.

Have your hitting groups compete as two or three teams, working to achieve process-based goals.
Players expect to get jobs done in batting practice, but truly only have pressure from themselves. This creates a system by which their only to their own expectations.

When a group of hitters is accountable to each other, to the betterment of the group, individual success becomes a less stressful part of the process, and the team flourishes.

Look, setting up a process-based practice takes up more of your planning time. You said you wanted to win?

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